Published 8:00 am Thursday, September 8, 2022
We’re used to hearing the relentless Ka-BLAM of target shooting gearing up for deer season, and certainly used to the sight of harvested deer, bound to the front of vehicles (“No, Timmy, that’s not Rudolph, stop crying”), or lying in the back of a pick up at our local gas station. And while it might be a bit of a shock the first time one pulls in to fill up one’s car, only to come eye to glazed eye with a 6-point buck, usually shot by a 1-point man, one gets used to it. This is the Carolinas, after all.
It’s why we live here, especially this time of year…the rich, dense canopy of forests, the mountainous terrain that promises four seasons, equally beautiful, the wildness of the protected coastal beaches…cider mills, jams sold along the roadway…long may it last, long may we put in the effort to protect it. And those are just a few reasons why I’d dang sure never move to Florida as many do as their bones begin to creak and ache.
Because in Florida, their hunting season has just begun. And it ain’t deer. From August 15 through November 1, 15,000 hunters vied for 7,000 permits. To hunt alligators. Now listen, I have no qualm with hunting alligators. Florida is lousy with them. In fact, it’s estimated that the state has 1.3 million, just waiting to ingest anyone or anything that wanders into their path.
I’ve often wondered about the reaction of Ponce de Leon when he claimed discovery of Florida (to the amusement of the indigenous natives already there), and set foot upon the sand, in 1513. I should think he and his crew maybe hacked 20 feet through the thick, tropical foliage before turning and fleeing, screaming like little girls, “El lagartos! EL LAGARTOS!!” Which, in Spanish, translates to ’THE LIZARDS!!’ and more than likely (see what you learn from this column?), ‘alligator’ is the anglicized form of that very word.
While Carolina hunters have traditionally used fail-safe ways to transport their harvested deer back to the processor, Floridian hunters have a bit more on their hands. Because while adult deer usually weigh in at 130 lbs, an adult alligator tips the scales at 1,000 pounds and can reach a length of 15 feet. Not so easy to tie to the hood of your car. But if you happened to have been driving on I-95 through Brevard County over Labor Day, you’d have seen a harvested alligator, snout still tied shut with rope, secured to the back of a Jeep.
Of course, someone took out their phone and snapped a photo of the massive creature to share with the local press. All the other drivers gave it a wide berth. After all, no one likes a tail-gator.